Workplace Anxiety: Recognizing and Overcoming

A foggy street in the woods to symbolize workplace anxiety

Have you ever had a thought or idea, but felt like something was pulling you back from sharing it? Has your voice ever felt stifled, whether it be because of performance anxiety at work, or fear of being rejected?

You’re not alone.

Billions of excellent ideas are left behind each day as a result of workplace anxiety. Just as many insightful comments are lost because the speaker felt too uncomfortable to say anything. And even more questions and queries, deemed as unintelligent by the asker, are left un-asked because they don’t want to risk being ridiculed.

In today’s blog post, we’ll be talking about why this happens. Perhaps you know someone who is affected by workplace anxiety, or maybe it’s something you deal with on a daily basis. I’ll also give some tips for working toward overcoming the fear and supporting others to do the same.

What is Performance Anxiety at Work?

Work-related performance anxiety often stems from a fear of not doing or being enough when in the workplace. You may feel like you aren’t as smart or talented as your co-workers. Maybe you even feel like your co-workers don’t accept you or like they’ve put a target on your back.

First and foremost, you should feel safe at work. There may be difficult days, but if you feel like most days are filled with rude and disrespectful comments, there are resources to help you get out of a toxic work situation.

However, if you recognize that your fears of your co-workers disliking you are largely unfounded, it’s more than likely that it’s not actually true. Rather, you’re experiencing some rather intense, anxious feelings about the quality of your work.

It may also stem from a generalized anxiety disorder which could be triggered by something at your work. Maybe random meetings and check-ins drive your social anxiety through the roof, for example.

Recognizing The Fears

Whatever the source may be for your overall discomfort at work, the first step is to recognize what the specific problem is and why it’s affecting you this way. Do you feel fear when asked to speak up in meetings because you’re worried about your colleagues judging you? Or do you not feel confident in your ability to speak up?

Before you can begin managing these fears, it’s important to get to the bottom of what they truly are. At times like these, it can be helpful to go to a trusted friend, family member, or colleague. It may even be useful to seek the advice of a mental health professional. Never be afraid to ask for help; it’s the first step toward overcoming the roadblocks you’re facing.

Managing Workplace Anxiety

If you’re able to get to the bottom of what’s making you uncomfortable, it’s time now to evaluate what the merits of these fears are. For example, maybe you have a team member who you feel is overly critical of your work. Because of this, you feel like you can’t share ideas with them, for fear of being rejected. You can handle this a few different ways rather than staying silent.

First, you can evaluate the types of comments they make. If they offer harsh, negative criticism each day, it may be helpful to have a conversation with them one-on-one, or possibly with a manager. This can help get to the bottom of why this person feels so negative while at work.

Maybe their comments have some real merit, though. If you think through what they’ve said in the past and realized that their critiques have actually made the team’s work better consistently, you may come to the realization that their true interests are in helping the company excel, rather than putting you down. It may still be helpful to have a discussion with them regarding how they word their criticisms, but if you can come to the conclusion that it’s not actually about you, this may take some of the pressure off.

Give your fears some perspective. And, when you can, try to stop any negative thoughts that don’t hold any weight. There’s a good chance that your boss doesn’t actually dislike you, you’re just perceiving their comments in that extremely negative light.

Above all, know that you are enough. You are insightful, and nothing is more important than being your most authentic self. As much as you can, put your fears and inhibitions aside, and speak your piece. Chances are, you’re not the only person sitting in on that meeting with the same question or idea. Be that voice for someone else. Take a few deep breaths; you’re doing excellent.

Helping Others With Workplace Anxiety

While you may not personally experience these sorts of anxieties on a regular basis at work, chances are someone close to you does. If you’re a manager or work closely with someone who does fear speaking up at work, rather than demanding they do better (which could increase that workplace anxiety), try having a private conversation with them about their fears and what about meetings at work makes them go quiet.

Maybe they do an excellent job of speaking up in smaller meetings, but feel more vulnerable in large ones. Perhaps they prefer being called on to speak, rather than guessing and saying things at random.

They may not be ready and willing to discuss these fears with you right away, but being able to do so shows that they have recognized them within themselves and are ready to try and break out of their shells.

And, if nothing else, try to encourage the other person to change any negative thoughts they’re having into positive ones. If they’re feeling like they aren’t good enough, remind them of their successes and that they are, in fact, exactly who and where they need to be.

It may not be your job to provide mental health support for others, but giving a little nudge of encouragement every now and then can go a long way. Just be sure that you’re taking care of yourself, too.


Trying to look good and get it right all of the time is not a healthy habit. It will only increase your work anxiety and lead to higher stress overall. Give yourself permission to be who you are, allow your voice to be heard, and trust that you are, in fact, doing an excellent job.

If you are feeling overwhelmed with workplace anxiety, I would love to be a resource for you. I can help provide some techniques to overcome your doubts and start speaking your mind more freely. Reach out to schedule a meeting today.

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